Lance is still better than me

Lance Armstrong is still better than me.

I wish I was a better athlete.  I wish I was a better parent.  I wish I was a better husband.  I just wish I was better.  So did Lance Armstrong.  He was a good athlete who had an intense desire to be better.  The desire to be better was so strong that he succumbed to temptation that, to be better, all he needed was a drug.  And he was better than every other cyclist in the history of the sport.  He succeeded.

Sort of.

It was actually all a lie.  A lie to himself about his own abilities.  A lie the world.   For over a decade.

And so Lance Armstrong – the great hero – the spectacular cyclist – the LiveStrong inspiration – is just like the rest of us:  A liar.  A person who is weak in the face of temptation.  And a person who wants to be better.  Just like the rest of us.

And yet, perhaps he is still better than most of us – not because of his cycling – but because he admits that he is wrong, flawed, and weak.  Yes, it took him over a decade to admit his wrongdoing, but at least he admitted it.  How many of us will admit our wrongs and confess our sins even to a close and personal friend, let alone to the entire world with Oprah?!  And what does he have to gain by confessing his sins?  Nothing.

Sort of.

Ironically, the very thing that he desired the performance-enhancing drugs to do – make him better – his confession may just accomplish.  Because it is only through the confession of our sins – it is only by the admission that we are flawed and cannot be better on our own – that God is able to make us better.  We cannot fix ourselves.  We cannot be better on our own.  There is no drug to fix our broken, flawed, sinful nature.  Thankfully, there is a God who can.  Thankfully, Jesus is “better” so we don’t have to be.  Thankfully, Jesus trades us – our broken, flawed, sinful existence for his beautiful, full, sinless life.

Dark Knight Rises: Despair & Hope

I am a huge fan of the new Batman movies.  One of my favorite movies of all time is The Dark Knight.  This great movie has great commentary on Biblical themes of

evil vs. good
chaos vs. chance vs. order
self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world/Gotham

And though, on the whole, I didn’t think that Dark Knight Rises was as strong of a film, it did manage to address some Biblical themes as well.

Bane (the villain) mistakenly preaches, “there can be no true despair without hope.”  This statement, so utterly paradoxical, is eventually disproven by the Batman.  Of course, Bane’s statement could more accurately be stated “there can be no true despair without false hope.”

Hope is what drives us in the midst of despair, suffering, and death.  In Revelation 21 Christianity’s ultimate hope is articulated:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5, NLT)

Our true hope is in that, one day, Christ will put an end to all suffering, death, and pain.  It is more than the hope of just “our souls going to heaven when we die.”  If that was our only hope then death would still have defeated our bodies.  Instead, we not only have the hope of our souls going to be with the LORD when our bodies die, but we also have the ultimate hope of physical resurrection.  Going back to Dark Knight Rises, we see a the Batman go through a physical resurrection – from broken back and burial in a prison in the ground to physical rebirth.

This is the hope that keeps us from true despair.  This is the hope that keeps us going in the face of death.

Keeping Up With “The Joneses”

The movie, “The Joneses,” stars David Duchovny,Demi Moore, Amber Heard, and Ben Hollingsworth. “[The] seemingly perfect family moves to a new neighborhood and quickly become trendsetters…They’re not just living the American dream, they’re selling it…it’s called self-marketing.”*

[Minor spoiler alert: I do recommend the movie, so stop reading, Netflix it, and then continue reading.]

The “family” of four is a group of sales people who market their company’s products to their unwitting neighbors and friends. The sales people use everyday conversation as natural segways to promote a new product.

We actually do this all the time when we find a product we like, be it a restaurant, movie, or household gadget; we look for opportunities to share the “good news” This family just gets commission for doing it. And it works. Through “self-marketing” the company’s sales figures increase dramatically.

As the movie points out, “self-marketing” is so successful because it doesn’t involve selling “things” but selling your lifestyle.

Evangelism is a lot like that. Grassroots Church’s value of “exponential evangelism” represents our desire to share the good news of the resurrected Christ in natural and everyday ways with our friends and neighbors. Many people don’t feel like they are “comfortable” doing that because they don’t know what to say (i.e. they feel like they don’t know enough about the “product”). But as this movie reminds us, people buy who you are, not the stuff that you sell. We need to quit selling “things” or “products” and start selling our lives.

However, before we glorify sales and marketing too much, I should also mention that the movie makes it clear that life is much more than sales transactions (as seen through their juxtaposition to real relationships – or lack thereof).

Duchovny’s character (the devoted “father”) is constantly trying to engage in real relationships with his pretend family while the rest of the family is focused solely on transactions.

But as the movie progresses, even those that resist real relationships the most cannot resist the loving embrace of even a pretend mother or father when faced with crisis. There seems to be something within us all that longs for a real, ongoing, loving relationship.

The relationship of the loving father (Duchovny) to his family, is a creative way for the film to hint at the necessity of a loving father in the home. Without one, the daughter lustfully seeks the acceptance of older men, the son struggles with homosexual identity, and the wife is controlling and domineering.

Not only is the presence of a loving father in the home a major contributing factor to healthy relationships (life the way it was intended and designed to be), but also the presence of our loving heavenly father in our lives is the only way our lives will be as they were intended and designed to be.

When life is lived out how it was intended and designed to be, our life “sells” itself. A loving relationship with God affects our relationships with all other people.

How have you unwittingly or naturally “sold” your relationship with Christ?

How have the father figures in your life impacted you as a person?

Have you ever felt like your religion was more about “transactions” than a real relationship? Take the opportunity to explore the meaning of life through Alpha.

The fine print:
The R rating is likely for teenage drug and alcohol use, a brief nude seen, and a little bit of language.

For further reading:
Strong fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker
Better Dads, Stronger Sons by Rick Johnson